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ballet, how to raise resilient hardworking children, teaching responsibility, blisters, how to heal blisters

How to Raise Resilient Hardworking Children when Everyone Gets a Trophy

by Deborah Cruz

Calling all parents of snowflake babies do you ever find yourself confronted with how to raise resilient hardworking children in a world where everybody gets a trophy?

Yesterday, ballet youth company camp started and with that comes all of the excitement and pain that anything beautiful brings with it. I’ve taught the girls that beauty is pain since they were old enough to have their hair brushed. No point in bullshitting about it, right? It’s true anything that is beautiful in this world takes some pain to get there.

Ballet is no exception, especially when you’re dancing on pointe. Have you seen a ballerina’s feet? Those poor beautiful creatures, flit and leap all over that stage looking as graceful as gazelles while their feet are bleeding and being blistered and ripped to shreds. Beauty is pain, kids. Yet, they do it all with a smile on their face because, really, how creepy would a ballerina grimacing in pain be? We only see the end result, the beauty they create. We don’t see the ugly crying and pain behind the beauty.

ballet, how to raise resilient hardworking children, teaching responsibility, blisters, how to heal

Yesterday was the girls’ first day back to the ballet after a month off. My oldest tried to do footwork but we traveled 15 of the past 30 days and it’s pretty difficult to stay focused and get it done when you’re in a hotel room and Disney World or the beach is calling to you. I blame myself but I feel like kids need a summer. Anyways, it takes 3 days to start losing muscle memory and 2 weeks to build it back up, you do the math.

My oldest came home with 2 blood blisters on each pinky toe from pointe yesterday. This was to be expected but that doesn’t stop a 12-year-old from having an epic full-on drama meltdown. To be honest, I haven’t seen her this full-blown meltdown since she was about 3 but this was much worse.

She came out of camp with a stern look on her face and I knew something was wrong but she was quiet; that scary quiet that people get right before they go postal. I inquired, she snipped, as tired tweens who just danced for 8 hours are known to do and then we got to the car and the tears came. The tired frustration that comes with working hard and not feeling like you got to where you wanted to be frustration. The feeling of failure that no mom ever wants to see on her child’s face but is completely necessary to make her a functioning member of society.

Her first action was to tell me of all the horror and pain that she was experiencing from the blisters. I sat quietly until she was finished because I know sometimes we just have to vent and we don’t necessarily want to have anyone fix it for us. We just want them to listen so that we feel heard. I did that as she cried.

I’m still learning how to raise resilient hardworking children in this crazy world where they expect everything to be handed to them. So I thought for a moment.

Then I offered up multiple ways that I would help ease her blister pain when we got home; Advil, Neosporin, ice, Epsom salt, powder and a shoulder to cry on. I also provided some empathy to let her know that we’ve been there. Her father played soccer and I wore lots of new flats and pumps in middle and high school (breaking in shoes is no joke. We’ve had blisters a plenty.) This seemed to anger her because obviously, our blisters were not the same as her ballet blisters. She became a bit hulk like and raised her voice at me. I was losing my mom sympathy pretty quickly at this point.

I must have missed the memo where I was supposed to immediately tell her it was okay to quit. But, then again, apparently, she forgot that I am the mom who doesn’t quit. I am the person who believes if you commit to something, you have to honor the commitment; even if it’s not easy. I’ve built my life on the motto, where there is a will there is a way. I am a way finder, not a quitter and I am not raising quitters because that is not doing them any favors. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a time to let things go but that is different than just quitting because life gets a little hard.

I understand she is a proud member of the snowflake generation (this is more my fault than hers) but it’s my job as her mother to teach her to live in the real world, not the Utopia that exists in her head where all things are handed to you because, as anyone who has ever held a job, paid a mortgage or had a child knows, you’ve got to work like your life depends on it to get ahead…because it does. There has to be a sense of urgency, with some pride and respect mixed in.

I’m not as mean as I might sound. I’ve never been the rub some dirt on it kind of mom. I’ve always been the Sana Sana, kiss all the booboos mom but maybe I’ve swung the pendulum too far in the other direction and she expects me to fix everything, without even trying to fix it herself. Then the Big Guy reminded me that this is her first time experiencing any sort of pain. I’ve lived a lifetime; there has been broken bones, cuts, scrapes, giving birth twice, gallstones, root canals and heartache aplenty but this is her first blister so I needed to remember that. Damn Big Guy and his even temperament.

I still felt it was my duty to explain to her, in my most compassionate demeanor I could muster after being eye-rolled at, that the things in life that we want to accomplish are worth working hard for. I explained that as an athlete (because believe me you, being a ballerina is being one of the most intense athletes there are) you have to work to build up muscle memory, strength, and stamina. Those things are not just a given, for anyone. Anyone who is dancing ballet at the performing level is working their asses off…through the pain, through the blisters.

how to raise resilient hardworking children, teaching responsibility, blisters, how to heal

Blisters are a part of life. Blisters on the body, blisters of the heart and blisters of the soul all hurt. No one likes blisters but there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing that you did it, in spite of the blisters.

Update: My evil plan to raise resilient, good human beings is working. She just called and told me that she got 2 more blisters today. She cried the whole time (so did three other girls) but she finished and I told her how effing proud I was of her and that tonight, I will take care of those nasty, old blisters. Hey, what do you expect? I’m human. Sometimes, the reward for hard work is a little babying by your mama.

What is your best tip on how to raise resilient hardworking children in today’s everybody gets a trophy world?

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Tamara 2017/07/11 - 5:49 pm

As someone with two ballet dancer sisters, this metaphor resonates!
I think a lot about this. Sometimes I want to baby my kids, and other times, I believe more in tough love. I suppose it’s all about finding that perfect balance – no easy achievement.
I don’t even know how resilient I feel most days!

Monica Y 2017/07/11 - 6:15 pm

What a great read. I always think motivation should be different that making kids believe they deserve things. I miss the times you actually had to study to get an award. Now they give perfect attendance awards, like telling people you get an award just for coming to school.
I want to teach my son that effort counts but he has to give 150% if he wants to succeed.

Lisa Favre 2017/07/11 - 6:18 pm

I say talking about failure and defeat every now and then. There are just some things in life that we will have to “try again” for. I think that’s a huge factor in raising resilient and hardworking children – not everything should be handed to them!

Tami 2017/07/11 - 11:58 pm

Motherhood is a difficult task. I want the best for my children, but I learned quickly how little it benefited them when I came to their rescue all the time. I think we should toss the participation trophy bologna altogether.

Mike 2017/07/12 - 2:00 am

I think different kids relate to different types of stimulus. Some thrive on the blisters and some thrive on letting snowflakes land on their tongue. And realizing that we are all different it what makes the world go round 🙂

Lisa 2017/07/12 - 11:50 pm

Love this post! I was just discussing the same thing to my girls the other day. Nothing should be handed to them and pain comes with beauty. Hardwork always pay off. Your girls will look back on those blister days and smile.

Bites for Foodies 2017/07/13 - 3:55 am

I’m of the opinion that kids need to learn from an early age to work for what they want and to take responsibility for their actions…this will inevitably help them becomes more indepedent and resilient in life!

David Elliott 2017/07/13 - 11:00 am

That is so great that you are teaching your children not to quit on circumstances. And not to just leave when the going gets tough. For me, I try to teach my daughter that she has to finish anything that she starts. I think that is important. That doesn’t mean that i want her to torture herself or beat up against a wall but to realize that finishing commitments is important.

Ali Rost 2017/07/13 - 5:59 pm

What a great post! This week Terri Gross interviewed Wendy Whelan, who danced for the NY Ballet for 30(!) years. I was speechless, really, to hear how hard it was on her body, and the effort she’d put in to have made it to that level. I think so often we look at people who are at the top of their game and how effortless they make it all appear. We think “how hard can that be?” That is until we start down the path. Such a great lesson for your daughter. I really hope she sticks with it. Good job mom(!)

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